Russo-Chinese Relations, US-ROK War Games, and the Facade of a United Sino-DPRK Perspective: Tongsin no. 5

By | September 21, 2014 | No Comments

Tumen River at the Sino-DPRK border | Image: Flickr

Tumen River at the Sino-DPRK border | Image: Wifarm/Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0

“Tongsin (통신)” or “news report” is a summary and analysis of DPRK state news relevant to China, sourced from the KCNA and Rodong Sinmun. Each issue covers the most important North Korean news posts relating to Chinese politics, economics, and cultural activities, accompanied by comments from the editor.

Tongsin is edited by Morgan Potts, with research assistance from Vikram Jones. This issue covers the DPRK news from June–August 2014. Previous issues were in PDF format and can be found on the dedicated page.

Russo-Chinese Relations, US-ROK War Games, and the Facade of a United Sino-DPRK Perspective: Tongsin no. 5

by Sino-NK

The KCNA and Rodong Sinmun are not news sources, but tools used to produce and perpetuate narrative in the DPRK. Their coverage on China is primarily a means by which to portray China and Chinese Koreans as being allied with DPRK party line—a unified front against South Korea and US—rather than reporting news-worthy stories or commentary on China or Chinese policy. The North Korean news this summer continued this tradition.

In June, the usual Sino-DPRK topics were addressed: Chinese tourism to North Koreafriendship meetingsKimjongilia flower exhibitions in Dalian; and Koreans in China denouncing the US as an imperialist aggressor.

The KCNA writes off US nonchalance regarding increasingly closer Sino-Russian relationship | Image: Sino-NK

The KCNA writes off US nonchalance regarding increasingly closer Sino-Russian relationship | Image: Sino-NK

After an unnamed US official allegedly stated (unconfirmed by external sources) that the growing relationship between Russia and China “is nothing surprising” and “is not an unexpected response”, the KCNA reported that the US’ apparent nonchalance was a bluff masking uneasiness. Russia and China both voted to veto the UN Security Council draft resolution which would have referred the conflict in Syria to the ICC, participated in joint military exercises, and China’s proposal for an Asian regional security cooperation body which would include Russia. The KCNA writes that the increased “close relations” between China and Russia “cannot but be a heavy blow at the US foreign policy for world domination.” The implication is that the two powers are banding together in an alliance reminiscent of the Cold War, standing together on issues regarding Syria and Ukraine, alongside North Korea.

The KCNA reports on the construction of a new bridge over the Tumen River | Image: Sino-NK

KCNA article on the construction of a new bridge over the Tumen River | Image: Sino-NK

Rodong and the KCNA both reported on a business agreement on the construction and joint-management of a new Wonjong-Quanhe bridge over the Tumen River, apparently replacing the old bridge. This fits nicely into the narrative of literal and figurative bridges between the Chinese and the North Korean governments.

The General Association of Koreans in China arrives to the DPRK | Image: Rodong

A delegation from the General Association of Koreans in China arrives to the DPRK | Image: Rodong

July was a busier month for Sino-DPRK news in North Korea. There were also the typical articles: emphasizing a shared Sino-DPRK anti-Japanese sentiment; the General Association of Koreans in China arrived, praised Kim Jong-un, and left; and various cultural exchanges. July marked the 20th anniversary Kim Il-sung’s death; as would be expected, the DPRK news devoted much coverage to this, including reports of remembrances in China for the Eternal President.

The KCNA reports that Koreans in China support reunification under the DPRK | Image: Sino-NK

KCNA reports that Koreans in China support reunification under the DPRK | Image: Sino-NK

There was much attention devoted to the National Defense Commission of the DPRK’s proposal for unification, with several KCNA articles covering the proposal and expressing support from Koreans in China.

The General Association of Koreans in China condemned the US-ROK-Japan trilateral SAREX naval exercise off the island of Jeju as reckless, unpardonable, and shameless war mongering. Interestingly, the articles do not end with declarations of bolstering DPRK nuclear deterrence.

Marking the 61st anniversary of the armistice of the “Fatherland Liberation War” (Korean War), the DPRK and Koreans in China celebrated Victory Day and lauded the leadership of the three Kims. Once more we are reminded of the shared North Korean and Chinese revolutionary struggle, and a sense of Sino-DPRK unity is conveyed.

The China-relevant DPRK news in August was scant. There were a few articles about an international trade expo in Rason to promote investment in the DPRK, which would display goods from and attract investment from China (among other countries: Italy, Russia, and Thailand are also specifically mentioned); but the main story was the Chinese Korean’s disapproval of the US-ROK military exercise Ulji Freedom Guardian.

First paragraph of KCNA article condemning US-ROK war games | Image: Sino-NK

KCNA article condemning US-ROK war games | Image: Sino-NK

The standard inflammatory language is employed, deriding the “nuclear war exercises” as rash, frantic, and undisguised blackmail against the DPRK. The statements made by the General Association of Koreans in China underlines reunification as the goal, and in a particularly Orwellian turn of phrase, “the world peace-loving people will fight it out against the US imperialists.” Again, while the “powerful military muscle” of the DPRK is not by any means understated, these articles likewise do not proclaim the North’s sovereign right to pursue nuclear deterrence.

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